Dozens of Indonesian migrant workers caught returning from Malaysia via illegal routes

Apriadi Gunawan

The Jakarta Post

Medan

Jakarta   /  Tue, April 21, 2020  /  05:40 pm

Authorities conduct a medical check on one of 47 Indonesian migrant workers caught by Maritime Security Board personnel attempting to return from Malaysia via illegal routes in Nongsa waters in Batam, Riau Islands, on April 15, 2020.(Courtesy of Bakamla/via kompas.com)

Dozens of Indonesian migrant workers returning from Malaysia have been caught attempting to sneak past border authorities via illegal routes.

The Indonesian Navy spotted and secured a fishing vessel carrying 22 undocumented Indonesian migrant workers from Malaysia in Tanjung Tumpul in Asahan regency, North Sumatra, on Monday.

Belawan I Naval Base commander Adm. Abdul Rasyid said the authorities were keeping a close watch on the country’s borders with Malaysia because there were concerns that illegal migrants might enter Indonesia and spread the coronavirus disease upon arrival.

The Navy would continue patrolling the sea, as well as a number of routes that were found to have been used as illegal entry points by migrants, he said.

“This is the umpteenth time that we have detained migrant workers who returned from Malaysia. It has become a major concern for us amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Abdul said on Monday.

Belawan 1 Naval Base spokesperson Second Lt. Mega Patijurjana said the authorities had conducted medical tests on passengers of the all-male fishing vessel to determine whether they posed any public health risks.

“All migrant workers are currently isolated at a hospital to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Patinurjana said.

Batubara regency, located along North Sumatra's eastern shoreline, also saw an influx of migrant workers returning from Malaysia via illegal routes, with 94 people recently caught entering the area.

“Seventeen migrant workers managed to escape, while the 77 others were immediately placed under quarantine at a hospital to stem the spread of COVID-19,” Batubara Regent Zahir said on Monday.

Read also: COVID-19 pandemic forces Indonesian mothers to do it all

He said the migrant workers originated from various provinces across the country, including Riau, Jambi, East Java and Central Java.

The North Sumatra provincial administration previously repatriated some 513 Indonesian migrant workers from Malaysia after they were cleared following COVID-19 testing. Many of them had police records in Malaysia for overstaying their visas.

All recently repatriated migrant workers had been put in isolation for 14 days at a special facility in Cadika Lubuk Pakam Park in the province's Deli Serdang regency or at Suwondo Air Base in the provincial capital Medan.

North Sumatra had 84 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, with at least nine deaths linked to the disease.

Authorities also previously caught Indonesian migrant workers returning via illegal routes from Malaysia in other provinces, including Riau Islands.

Last week, the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) apprehended 47 migrant workers returning from Malaysia via illegal routes in the Nongsa waters of Batam, Riau Islands, on April 15.

None of them had shown any COVID-19 symptoms when authorities screened them, Bakamla chief Vice Adm. Aan Kurnia said.

Indonesian migrant workers began returning home after Malaysia extended until April 28 its “movement control order”, which is technically a lockdown. The coronavirus has infected more than 5,400 people and killed at least 89 there.

Read also: Indonesia to evaluate partial lockdown as companies, factories continue business as usual

Other provinces, including Riau and Aceh, have also seen an influx of Indonesian migrant workers returning from Malaysia since earlier this month.

The Riau administration's communications and information agency head, Chairul Riski, said 4,444 migrant workers from the neighboring country had returned home through the province.

“The figure accounts for arrivals from the fourth week of March to April 1,” Chairul said on April 2 as quoted by Antara.

He went on to say that the migrant workers had largely entered the province through Tanjung Harapan Port in Meranti Islands regency, Sri Junjungan Port in Dumai city and Sri Laksamana Port in Bengkalis regency.

Meanwhile, the East Aceh Police have stepped up monitoring after some 500 migrant workers returned to the province from Malaysia last week.

East Aceh Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Widiantoro said the returnees had been placed in isolation and were required to comply with a 14-day quarantine rule.

He said the authorities in East Aceh had also been tracking the arrival of domestic workers from other regions that were considered hot spots for COVID-19 contagion, such as North Sumatra and the capital Jakarta.

“We’ll keep compiling data to keep track of their locations in our region. This emergency health protocol has to be done in concert [with related stakeholders] to maximize our mitigation efforts,” Eko said on April 15.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of people infected by the coronavirus had reached 7,135, with 616 fatalities, according to the government's official count. Of the figure, Riau has recorded at least 35 confirmed cases with four fatalities, while Aceh has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death linked to the disease. (rfa)